“I don’t want to make a 100 crore film”, says director Sudipto Chattopadhyay
His films have created waves on the International film festival circuit. While his directorial debut, Pankh, won 13 awards across festivals, his second film, Shobhna’s Seven Nights, that has not even had a commercial release yet, has already picked up 4 awards at various festivals including the Chicago South Asian Film Festival, Houston Bollywood Film Festival, Seven Island Film Festival and Jaipur International Film Festival.
Writer, director and producer Sudipto Chattopadhyay speaks to Pandolin on his upcoming film Shobhna’s Seven Nights, why he refrains from taking the commercial route, giving Raveen Tandon an interesting comeback, the experience of working with newcomers, making award winning films and various other insights.
How has the journey from your directorial debut, Pankh, to Shobhna’s seven nights been? Do you think our industry has become more receptive now?
Pankh was my first film which won 13 awards internationally across several film festivals. This is my second film which has gone to 7 film festivals and won at 4. It has been a very exciting journey for me. The whole international situation with both the films has been excellent. Infact, Pankh was meant to be an international film, it was not meant to be a very Indian film. On the other hand, Shobhna’s seven nights is a film with an Indian heart. Though it has not had a commercial release in India yet, I think it will have a much bigger impact on audiences over here.
Yes, definitely, to some extent the industry has evolved and continues to evolve.
Please can you tell us about the conception of Shobhna’s Seven Nights?
Shobhna’s seven nights evolved out of a real life incident that I witnessed. That was the basis of my writing the film. It was something that I saw just opposite my house at a coffee shop.
Your earlier film Pankh dealt with a subject matter more relative to urban audiences. Shobhna’s seven nights is also an urban story. Any specific reasons to deal with such non-mainstream topics?
I don’t want to make a 100 crore film. I want to make a film that makes sense, which actually connects with a sensitive audience and that is why I have not chosen the commercial route.
The characters in Shobhna’s seven nights apparently bear close resemblance to real personalities. Any inspirations drawn for the same?
The characters are based on resemblances to many real personalities. I know of several people who indulge in such similar acts and I’ve watched them and drawn inspiration from them.
How did you go about finalizing the cast of the film?
Amit Purohit who plays the lead in the film has also worked with me in Pankh where he was a supporting actor. I have known Amit since a long time and he is like family to me. When I was writing the film Amit was the first person in mind, he was my first and only choice. I thought of him as I knew he suited the role the most because of his innocence, the background he comes from and the entire biography.
When I narrated the story to Raveena Tandon, she couldn’t believe that such an incident happened, as it is a difficult concept for anyone to accept, so she came with me (wearing a burkha) to see it for herself. When she saw the event happening in front of her eyes, she immediately agreed to do the film. Though she was wary of a comeback role as a lot of heroines have done the same and it has not worked, she was sure that if she did a comeback it had to be with a special role like this. So it was not a difficult task to convince her for the role.
Where was the film essentially shot? What camera have you used to shoot?
We shot the entire film in Mumbai as it is a very Mumbai centric film. All our outdoors were shot on real locations and we built several sets for all the indoor sequences.
We shot digital on Red Epic.
How was the experience of shooting the film with DoP – R.Dee Deepak?
Deepak is an absolute newcomer whom I roped in for the project. He was an assistant cameraman to Natrajan. This was his first independent feature film and I had to train him into my kind of cinema. Fortunately I got a lot of time for pre- production, almost 5 months. So I made him watch around 200 films and understand the nuances. I would then tell him how to do a particular sequence in a particular manner according to the international films. He was outstanding in his response; he understood it immediately and did it as well.
The film deals with emotionally challenging content like domestic violence etc. How did you go about treating those parts? What was the most challenging part of the film?
Domestic violence is a part of everyday life and the film is about how a woman comes out of that sense of domestic violence. So on the whole, the entire film was challenging. It wasn’t a simple film. Especially the role of the main protagonist was complex. It was very challenging to make Raveena perform the emotionally demanding scenes. But she did her best and already won 4 awards for that.
Please can you tell us about the style/ kind of music used in the film.
I roped in Gourav Dasgupta for the music. My brief to Gourav was to do an international track.
How open were producers to the concept of the film? Were there any budget constraints while making the film?
No, I didn’t have any constraints at all. My producer is a very educated person who runs several educational institutes in Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. He was absolutely open to the idea of the film so I had no problems whatsoever.
How much time did it take to shoot the entire film? Where did the post production of the film take place?
It took around a month. The post production was done in Mumbai at the best studios. Alok De, one of the finest sound designers in India, has done the sound mixing. Editing has been done by a newcomer named Vicky Tiwari.
The film has been applauded across film festivals. When can we expect a theatrical release?
The film will release in theaters in April this year.
Can you tell us about your upcoming projects.
I am working on a Bengali film which has been finalized and will start from the end of March. I have my own production company and this film will be made by us. I have also started work on my next Hindi film which will feature Priyanka Chopra and Shabana Azmi. Rekha Bharadwaj will compose the music for the film which will also be her first project as music composer.
Sneak peak into Shobhna’s Seven Nights
The film revolves around Shobhna (Raveena Tandon) who plays a married 40-something columnist-author who is abused by her husband (Rohit Roy) and finds solace in a young man (Amit Purohit) who is one of the many strugglers in Bollywood.
The film also features Lillette Dubey and Anupam Kher.